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The suicide epidemic: Veterans calling attention to prevention

Veteran suicide prevention
Posted at 8:52 AM, Nov 11, 2023
  • The most recent National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report revealed 6,146 veteran suicide deaths in 2020 — or about 17 per day, on average
  • Helping Out Our American Heroes (HOOAH) Wisconsin, a Green Bay-based organization, is hosting a 16.8-mile Veteran Suicide Awareness March on Veterans Day — one mile for each daily suicide
  • The organizers and veterans say the event is both a tribute to veterans and a call to action to combat veteran suicide
  • Video shows a veteran and an active duty military master sergeant speaking about their experiences

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

Veterans organizations are getting ready to celebrate Veterans Day in downtown Green Bay on Saturday. They say the day is a celebration — not a memorial — but it's also an opportunity to raise awareness for veteran suicide.

Chances are you known someone who served in the U.S. military — or maybe you're like me and are related to one. What you may not know is that in 2020, around 17 veterans per day committed suicide. Organizations are preparing to raise awareness for veteran suicide on Veterans Day.

"When we're there it's not bad, but once we get home, it's still part of our lives and it still haunts us in the back of our minds," veteran Trevor Anderson said.

Anderson served two tours in Iraq and says veterans resources are invaluable for battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"We don't want to cry and talk about our mental health all the time because it makes us look weak," Anderson said. "But deep down, talking about it is sometimes the easiest or best thing to do."

Geoff Dardia has been a Green Beret for more than 20 years and done research on what he calls "the suicide epidemic." Dardia says the mental and physical toll of combat drove him to think about suicide.

"Thousands of blasts, a few hard landings and loss of conscious concussions — and then come to find out that, I wasn't adapting well to my environment anymore," Dardia said. "And I was in survival mode."

On Saturday, H.O.O.A.H. Wisconsin, or Helping Out Our American Heroes, is hosting a tribute march to call people to action to combat these issues — 16.8 miles for the 16.8 average veteran suicides per day.

Organizer Chelsea Kocken says the walk is getting shorter, but there is still work to be done.

"I hope one day we come and we don't walk at all — that that number is zero," Kocken said.

The 11th Veterans Suicide Awareness March expects over 800 walkers — a far cry from the 71 it had in its inaugural year.